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A mobile app to revolutionise Kenyan healthcare

In Kenya, marginalised and poor communities generally have low levels of healthcare due to a lack of health facilities and staff. To improve the training and supervision of community health workers (CHWs) in marginalised communities ‘mCHW’, a mobile health project was created. Co-funded by DFID and the ESRC, with support from the University of Oxford, Amref Health Africa and University College London, mCHW brought mobile technology to remote settings to provide better access to healthcare. In its initial stages, the research project included 20 health care workers, but soon extended to 100. Through local workshops, priorities for improvement were identified. Childcare and development came out top, as CHWs had never received training on the assessment of the development of children under 5.

In response, the REFER mobile app was developed with paediatricians and experts in Kenya and the UK to assess development milestones for children under five. The app uses questions designed to stimulate conversations with carers and engage children in activities to identify potential delays in development. In severe cases, it can also help health workers decide whether a child needs referral for specialist care.

“The mCHW project has built the capacity of community health volunteers working in tier one of heath service delivery using smart phone technology - demonstrating that technology can be used at the community level to contribute towards lasting health change.” Dr Alice Lakati, Amref Health Africa.

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